ROYALTY ON SCREEN: Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" (1987)


ROYALTY ON SCREEN: Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" (1987)
by Darius Kadivar

Winner of 9 Oscarsincluding best film and director, The Last Emperor is a 1987 biopic about the life of Puyi,the last Emperor of China, whose autobiography was the basis for thescreenplay. Starring Peter O' Toole and John Lone.


Official Trailer:


Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel Review of The Last Emperor (1987):


Trailer for the Director's Cut 10th Anniversary Edition of The Last Emperor:





Miscellaneous Footage and Scenes from the Film and Real Life Pu Yi



Part of a Documentary on China's Last Emperor and the Forbidden city:

Young Pu Yi's Coronation Scene from Movie The Last Emperor:

The Last Emperor - Puyi's Departure to the Forbidden City:

The Last Emperor Soundtrack (Main Title Theme) - David Byrne:

(NOTE: To Listen and Watch Clip Double Click Here )

A Film & Image Portrait of Puyi, Last Emperor of China:

The Real Life Puyi gives his first International Press Conference as Restored Emperor of the Japanese Puppet State of Manchukuo:

Movie Highlights with  R.Sakamoto & D.Byrne Soundtrack:


Plot :

The film opens in 1950with Pǔyí's re-entry into thejust-proclaimed People's Republic of China as a prisoner and war criminal, having beencaptured by the Red Army when the Soviet Union entered the Pacific Warin 1945 (see Soviet invasion of Manchuria) and put under Soviet custody for five years. Puyi attempts suicide which onlyrenders him unconscious, and in a flashback, apparently triggered as a dream,Puyi relives his first entry, with his wet nurse, into the Forbidden City.

The next section of the film is a series of chronological flashbacks showing Pǔyí'searly life: from his royal upbringing, to the tumultuous period of the early Chinese Republic,to his subsequent exile, his Japanese-supported puppet reign of Manchukuo, and then hiscapture by the Soviet army - all of which are inter mixed with flash-forwards portraying his prisonlife. There, Puyi is shown news reels of Japanese war crimes in Manchuria and the defeat of Japan, and he realizes his need to assume responsibility for his complicity in Japanese atrocities.

The concluding section of the film ends with a flash-forward to the mid-1960s during the Mao cult and the beginningof the Cultural Revolution. Released from prison as a "reformed citizen",Pǔyí has become a gardenerwho lives a proletarian existence. On his way home from work, he happens upon a Mao parade, complete with children playing pentatonic music on accordions en masse and dancers who dance the rejection of land lordism by the masses, aroused by rectified Mao thought. His prison camp commander is one ofthe "dunces" punished as insufficiently revolutionary in the parade.

Puyi then visits the Forbidden City as an ordinary tourist, and meets an assertive little boy who wears the red scarf of the Pioneer Movement. The boydemands that Pǔyístep away from the throne. However, Puyi proves to the little boy that he wasindeed the Son of Heaven;as he sits on his old throne, he finds the cricket he kept as a pet as a child,and gives it to the little boy - the cricket is still alive after 60 years. Thelittle boy turns to thank Puyi, but sees that the Emperor has disappeared.

The film ends with a tour guide leading a tour in frontof the throne. The guide encapsulates Pǔyí's life in a few sentences and informs the tourists of his date of death.


About the Film:

The Last Emperor is a 1987 biopic about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, whoseautobiography was the basis for the screenplay written by Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci.Independently produced by Jeremy Thomas,it was directed by Bertolucci and released in 1987 by Columbia Pictures. Puyi's life is depicted from his ascent to the throne asa small boy to his imprisonment and politicalrehabilitation by the Chinese Communistauthorities.

The film stars John Lone as Puyi, with Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole, Ruocheng Ying, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Maggie Han,

Ric Young,Vivian Wu, and Chen Kaige. It was thefirst feature film for which the producers were authorized by the Chinesegovernment to 

film in the Forbidden Cityin Beijing. It won nine AcademyAwards, including Best Picture and Best Director.


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more from Darius Kadivar
Darius Kadivar

Indeed SPINK Jaan ...Once Again Your Mature and In depth Comment

by Darius Kadivar on

Speaks for itself ...      


Seems Like UCLA Truly produces great academics in comparative history ... 


Twins Laughing



Sargord Pirouz

Saw this again recently on

by Sargord Pirouz on

Saw this again recently on DVD. It's an amazing film. My favorite part was the Russian paradrop. 

Yeah, like Iran, that part of China was saddled with a stooge monarch for a while, too.